“On a random Saturday, with no organizational ties or anything, some of my friends and I went out to give clothes and food to some of the homeless in Atlanta. It was really rewarding in the sense of getting in touch with real humans and hearing their stories. Really good people out there just doing stuff. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my time any differently”
~ Jason Kelly @mrjustjason
According to http://www.homeaidatlanta.org:
- The homeless census data estimates, more than 10,000 people in metro Atlanta experience homelessness on any given night, with more than 40 percent being women and children.
- According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), between 700,000 and 800,000 people are homeless on any given night in the U.S., with between 2.5 and 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness during the course of a year.
- More than 58,000 children in Georgia are homeless (NCFH).
- 42% of homeless children in Georgia are under the age of 6 years (NCFH)
- Children experiencing homelessness have twice the rate of moderate to severe health conditions compared to middle class children, and twice the emotional problems. Homeless children also have an average 16% lower proficiency in math and reading, and an estimated graduation rate below 25% (NCFH).
Around this time last year, I wrote a blog entry called: “The Small Things/Random Act of Kindness” (https://theelevationproject.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/the-small-thingsrandom-act-of-kindness/)
In it, I described a scene that had played out right in front of my eyes at a local coffee shop. One woman decided to do something which seemed completely random for a homeless man. She didn’t look as if she had any particular organizational ties or allegiances that pushed her to do it and the act garnered attention from no one at the time other than myself, which was totally unbeknownst to her. She had acted from a place of selflessness because she seemed suddenly moved to do so.
It was around that same time last year that I felt the urge to do something. One day, while sitting in my living room, I decided that I was going to give some clothes and food away to some people who might be less fortunate than me.
Now let me set the tone for you a little better. When I was a teenager and early into adulthood, I was constantly wondering how someone could become homeless. I asked ridiculous questions like, “What could they have done so horrible that no one will help them out?”; or “I wonder what drug they’re addicted to?”. As ridiculous as these questions sound, if you’re being honest, some of you have asked yourselves these same exact questions. One thing I know about God is that when you constantly ask him questions, and you’re open to the answer, He will give you an answer. Now, it might not be the answer you want or expect, but it will be an answer nonetheless.
What you might not know about God, however, is that he is going to make sure that he allows you the opportunity to become completely immersed in the concepts of what he is telling you. For me, it wasn’t enough that he use someone else to explain to me what it meant to be homeless. He had to take me on a journey that put me as close to that threshold as possible. You see my problem was, I had no real empathy for homeless people because I couldn’t identify with their situation. Their sorrows, trials, and tribulations did not resonate with me; until I was face to face with similar circumstances in my life in which I had to confront, homelessness, brokenness, and loss.
So now when I felt the push to go help those less fortunate than me, I was able to take heed to the call without hesitation because I now had real empathy. I now knew that I had a responsibility to do what I could with what I had. I sent a text out to a lot of my friends and associates, asking them if they would go out to distribute things with me. I wanted this to be a real “hands-on” experience. I could easily have just donated to a shelter or a food bank, but I felt as though I would be missing out on an experience; missing out on an opportunity to really meet the people whom I was hoping to help. As you might guess, most of the people who I sent a text to decided not to come along for one reason or another. At first, I judged them. Then, I quickly remembered the experiences that had changed my outlook on life and understood that I had no right to judge their perception of life. Who was I to judge their decision to not join me without completely knowing their situations. One friend came with me; and although our number was small, we had an experience that changed our outlook on homelessness and on our individual existences. I thanked her for answering the call to come out with me and we promised that we would do this again.
Fast forward to almost a year later. The weather was changing and my heart suddenly turned again to the people who needed basic supplies to make it through the winter. Once again, I decided to go out, but this time I had cultivated relationships with people over the past year who shared some of my same perspectives; some people who often took chances and stepped out on faith to empower someone who might be in a difficult situation. This time, I would be able to share this experience with others besides my friend Ana (who of course, was there once again ready to help).
We had no organizational ties and were on no grand crusade to completely eradicate homelessness. We were asked several times by other groups who were out and about at some of the same locations, “Who are you affiliated with?”. They were shocked to know that we were just a group friends who had decided to make a difference with the time that we had. What we shared was a common goal to let people know that they matter to us and that we care about them. We wanted to let them know that no matter where they found themselves, they were needed here on this Earth. We wanted to give them a shred of hope to hold onto. We wanted to lay down a trail of breadcrumbs in hopes that they would start to follow that trail out of the situation that they were in and somehow stumble onto the path that leads them back to God.
This is our story and what we experienced this weekend. If you’ve never had the opportunity to do something like this, I would hope that you feel inspired enough to do so. If you have experiences, please share them with us here on this blog. Feel free to send us videos of you or your organization helping out (links are fine too) or just write a short response outlining your experience.
Thanks for reading and please share!!! #Elevate